DESOTO COUNTY, Fla.- The EPA confirms the boy at the center of the mercury mess in Arcadia had access to three to five pounds of the element.
That 8th grader only brought a small amount to Desoto Middle School on Monday, but today, scientists worked frantically at the child's house, where there are high amounts of mercury vapor. Crews have been on the scene for hours cleaning up the home. They said the student had access to about three to five pounds of mercury from an antique scale.
The home is on South Volusia Avenue in Arcadia, which is just about a mile from Desoto Middle School. Officials with the EPA said they've had to take everything out of the home to test for contamination, and that's a process that will take days. Crews in white suits and masks combed through boxes and bags of belongings from inside this home. The front yard was covered with tarps and tents to separate the items contaminated with mercury vapors.
Terry Stilman is the on-scene coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency. He said this clean-up includes removing mercury that was on the floor in the home, as well as large beads of it that contaminated belongings. They're checking floor boards and walls, and hoping they won't have to be completely removed.
"It's certainly a lot for a house and anything over even a teaspoon we'd be concerned about because of the chemical nature of mercury it sometimes gets caught in the cracks of lenolium or tile or even in wood floors, so sometimes, we cannot get it out of the cracks we have to actually rip up the flooring," said Stilman.
Residents said they hope all the activity this show-and-tell-gone-wrong caused is a lesson to everyone.
"Explain to them what mercury is that way they won't look at this child, as you made us stay out of school, but they'll know that this is a dangerous situation," said resident Dawn Cambell.
Crews said they will also clean up the home of a relative where they also got a high reading for mercury vapors. As far as Desoto Middle School, crews are removing the carpets today in those classrooms that were contaminated. The school is closed until March 24th.